We all experience anxiety to some extent. Anxiety occurs as a response to stress, and is more particularly linked to worrying about the future.
The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as "an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure".
Though anxiety is normal to experience as an adaptive survival response originating from the earliest days of humanity in order to keep us safe in the world, when this state becomes chronic it can become maladaptive.
Prolonged anxiety can interfere with the quality of life of an individual but also lead to physical imbalances by triggering the fight or flight response. This can result in symptoms such as blood pressure, nausea, restlessness, uncontrollable feelings of worry, irritability, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, heart palpitations, headaches, and digestive issues.
Anxiety may arise from a combination of both physical and psychological factors.
Thus tackling anxiety will usually require a combination of different modalities such as nutrition, lifestyle, psychotherapy, mindfulness practices, exercise therapy, supplements, and in certain situations, medications.
Today we are sharing with you two supplements that are often overlooked yet can be powerful allies on your mental health journey.
Uncommon supplements to help anxiety
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) may not pop into your mind as a helper for anxiety, yet the science now confirms it has a role to play in mental health.
How so? Well, NAC has been shown to benefit mood by balancing glutamate levels in the brain, reducing inflammation, and boosting neurogenesis, or new brain cell growth (1).
High glutamate and inflammation levels may contribute to anxiety and mood related issues (2)(3)(4). NAC may help to provide relief as a complementary treatment for anxiety by supporting the balance of glutamate and lowering inflammation.
Neurotransmitters have various roles including regulating and controlling mood, motivation, energy, concentration, learning, memory, and ability to focus and cope with stress.
This is important because neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine and precursor amino acids such as tryptophan are often observed as low in patients with anxiety as well as depression (9)(10).
Eating quality sources of protein at each meal is an important part of managing mental health, however even if you do eat a well balanced diet, you still may not be receiving all of the amino acids you need. This is most often due to a compromised digestive system resulting in poor absorption of nutrients and in particular, protein.
When you consume free form amino acids in supplemental form, this allows for the amino acids to be absorbed more easily and directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive process.
Supplementing with amino acids may help to keep your brain happy and healthy and the effects can result in an elevation of mood and energy in a relatively short time frame (14)(15). Amino acids represent a natural and simple approach to improving many mental health symptoms.